About This Project

Oaxaca 2013 – El Arca

In March of 2013 we returned to the community of San Pablo Etla, Oaxaca, and the La Mesita site, for the third consecutive year. This year’s project, El Arca, is only steps from El Mirador and La Torre, forming a triangle of support for the eco reclamation work being done there.

This year’s project concept is simple – a vessel suspended within a exoskeleton. With all the structure on the outside, the interior of the vessel is a visually quite space where every little decision – puncture, plaque, etc. – takes on extra significance. Explorations of the site specifics during the workshop produced developments in the vessel design that are uniquely different than we expected.

El Arca was completed with 7 students, two local workers, three RAW staff and one volunteer Canadian carpenter in six days. This year’s students are from wide range of schools and cities including Syracuse, Oregon, Colorado, Florida A&M, U of MN, Brazil and Taiwan. The breadth of previous experience among the students couldn’t have been more varied, yet each found their voice in the work.

We continue to strengthen our relationships within the community as we worked side-by-side with local workers and were joined by two Mexican architecture grads on site for several days.

Significant developments continue to unfold at La Mesita. A little bit about that from our community liaison, Jim Austin…

The community plant nursery is operating under the skilled hands of a superb local woman who had several years of experience working in a nursery, absorbed much wisdom about plants from her campesino father, is passionate about conservation, and is a great educator. The Comisariado, the municipal authorities, the Directors of the primary and secondary schools, and the Parents Committees have all enthusiastically agreed to an environmental education program for ALL the school children in the community to complement their in class learning with field based learning, starting with sessions at La Mesita. This is a really significant undertaking not seen in any other community in Oaxaca.

La Mesita’s educational tour is now quite enriching, with about two dozen learning stations along the pathways that wind through the lower and upper parts. There are interpretive educational signs throughout and two teams of trained guides – one Spanish speaking and the other English speaking. Two weeks ago a group of 40 campesinos from the state of Guanajuato visited La Mesita and the impact was amazing. They learned a great deal of practical techniques that they could implement in their communities and they were inspired by SPE’s commitment to conservation and the community’s developement of La Mesita. It is beginning to realize its potential as a demonstration site and learning center.